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Must-Read Investigations of 2021

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This year we produced dozens of stories, reaching millions of people through our collaborations with partners in digital, audio, print, and film. Much of our coverage examined the ongoing fallout of the pandemic, the climate crisis, and last summer’s uprisings against police violence. As we brace ourselves for whatever 2022 may bring, join us in revisiting a few of these 2021 highlights from our investigative newsroom:

Police Are Giving Amazon Ring Cameras to Survivors of Domestic Violence. Is It Helping?

Amazon Ring has partnered with law enforcement departments across the country to provide free doorbell cameras to survivors of domestic violence, reported Ida B. Wells fellow Eileen Guo in partnership with Consumer Reports and MIT Technology Review. The initiatives require survivors to cooperate with efforts to arrest and prosecute abusers and, in some cases, give camera footage to police. But requiring police intervention may be dangerous and ineffective, survivors and advocates say.

Joe Manchin’s Dirty Empire

For decades, Sen. Joe Manchin has reaped millions of dollars in profits from his family’s coal firms in West Virginia while he’s fought efforts to regulate the coal industry, Daniel Boguslaw reported in partnership with The Intercept. Analyzing public records, Boguslaw found that Manchin’s coal firms, including Enersystems Inc., have relied on mines and refuse piles that have been cited for dozens of health and safety violations.

Biden is Expanding Trump’s War on “Domestic Violent Extremism” — and It’s Sweeping Up Black People

In partnership with The Intercept, Puffin Foundation reporting fellow Aaron Miguel Cantú found that the Biden administration is doubling down on the Trump administration’s prosecution of protesters from last year’s unrest with an expansive view of “domestic violent extremism.” The Biden administration has continued many of these prosecutions, including that of Tia Pugh, a Black woman from Mobile, Alabama, who smashed a police car window and was convicted using a rarely invoked federal civil disorder law.

How Joe Biden’s Green Agenda Threatens the Alaskan Wilderness

The Biden administration is moving forward with a plan to build a controversial 211-mile road through the Alaskan wilderness, despite lawsuits from Native villages and environmental groups alleging the Trump administration cut corners during the approval process. In an investigation produced in partnership with Politico Magazine, reporting fellow Adam Federman found that the Trump administration pushed the Department of the Interior to modify findings that showed the Ambler Road project had the potential to cause widespread environmental damage.

Secretive CBP Counterterrorism Teams Interrogated Over 180,000 U.S. Citizens Over Two-Year Period

Secretive U.S. Customs and Border Protection units called Tactical Terrorism Response Teams have detained tens of thousands of U.S. citizens at land borders and airports, revealed Lannan reporting fellow Melissa del Bosque in partnership with The Intercept. Documents from an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show that between 2017 and 2019, these units detained and interrogated over 600,000 travelers, about one-third of them U.S. citizens.

The Incalculable Cost of Cheap Chicken—and the Hidden Industry That Shoulders It

Puede leer este artículo en español aquí.

Immigrant workers have long fueled the poultry industry, often doing dirty and dangerous work, but the pandemic has put them at even greater risk, reported our Southern Ida B. Wells fellow Tina Vasquez in partnership with Scalawag. The year-long investigation examines the industry in North Carolina and the rise of staffing agencies that help provide poultry plants with immigrant labor, including undocumented workers.

Inside Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity

In an episode of a popular new podcast series, Kathryn Joyce uncovered a previously unreported aspect of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse crisis which found its way inside Mother Teresa’s religious congregation, the Missionaries of Charity. Type Investigations partnered with Rococo Punch and iHeartRadio to produce the episode of their hit podcast “The Turning: The Sisters Who Left,” which tells the stories of the women who made the ultimate sacrifice to join Mother Teresa’s religious order.

‘Gang Contracts’ in Cicero and Berwyn Schools Raise Concerns About Criminalization of Youth

Puede leer este artículo en español aquí.

Over seven years, more than 100 high schoolers in Cicero and Berwyn, Ill., have signed what are known as “gang behavior contracts,” which prohibit them from engaging in what school officials considered gang-related behavior, reported Ida B. Wells fellow Irene Romulo. In an investigation produced in partnership with Cicero Independiente and Injustice Watch, Romulo found that the contracts often cite vague or seemingly subjective reasons for suspected gang affiliation. Although the school district denies sharing gang contracts with the police, records show that the name of at least one student who signed it was shared with a local police department.

Bridging the Divide Between the Police and the Policed

Aggressive arrests have thwarted a push for police reform in Brownsville, Brooklyn — one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City — Saki Knafo wrote in partnership with the New Yorker. Knafo takes a close look at the 73rd Precinct of the New York City Police Department, where Craig Edelman, a white officer often at odds with the community, took over as commander in January 2019. His installment reflected a pattern, noted Knafo, of mayoral loyalty toward a coterie of police officials who defend and promote each other, keeping police leadership largely white and Irish. 

The Subprime Solar Trap for Low-Income Homeowners

A growing form of green home financing is Wall Street’s preferred tool to fight climate change — but consumer advocates say it’s just predatory lending redux. In an investigation produced with Bloomberg Green, Rebecca Burns examined property assessed clean energy, or PACE, which leverages the taxing authority of local governments to cover the high upfront cost of climate-friendly home renovations. The model has drawn support from progressive and environmental groups and President Biden. But some homeowners have been left with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, often with no paper trail and no clear path to relief.

Strangers in a Homeland

In an investigation produced in partnership with Virginia Quarterly Review, reporter May Jeong wrote about the plight of Afghan refugees, who have faced wildly unpredictable odds for asylum in Europe. When refugees are returned to Afghanistan as deportees, there is no policy or institution — and certainly no political will — to help them reintegrate. As a result, they have turned to a man named Abdul Ghafoor, who has served as a kind of one-person social safety net.

NYC Nursing Home Gave Dozens of Veterans Experimental COVID-19 Treatments. Some Families Had No Idea.

A state-run veterans’ home in Queens, New York, gave an unproven drug cocktail — hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin — to dozens of residents, some of whom never tested positive for COVID-19, Dean Russell reported in partnership with THE CITY and Columbia Journalism Investigations. Russell found that the drug combination was prescribed even after public health experts voiced concern about its use outside of hospitals and for people, like many of those in the home, with other ailments. 

Defanged

Collier County is the last refuge of the endangered Florida panther, but private landowners are pursuing developments in panther habitat that conservationists fear could shove the animal toward extinction. The Fish and Wildlife Service has authority under the Endangered Species Act to stop development that could harm endangered species. Still, for years it has declined to employ the law's most powerful provisions fully, reported Jimmy Tobias in a partnership with The Intercept. Public records showed that as the Florida developers worked to get FWS's approval for their plan, they  enjoyed access to top appointees at the agency. FWS also accepted money for staffing costs from one of the developers, invoicing them for at least $292,000, according to records.

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Type Investigations

Type Investigations' mission is to produce high-impact investigative reporting that holds the powerful accountable.

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